First female NFL coach inspires girls flag football team


Ruby Thompson

Jen Welter, the first female NFL coach, speaks to the Lane Tech flag football team.

By Megan Mesikapp, Editor-in-Chief

Both girls flag football teams took a knee on the field as Jen Welter, the first female NFL coach, stood before them. 

“[You girls] are taking one step, or a first down, towards equality,” Welter said. 

On Friday, August 26, Lane’s Girls Flag Football team made their debut against Amundsen. Playing at Winnemac Stadium, the girls participated in the Chicago Public League’s Kick-Off for their inaugural season. 

Before the coin toss both teams met at the 50-yard line and listened to Welter’s speech explaining how important it is for women to be taking on one of America’s classic sports: football. 

This will be the second year where girls flag football is being tackled by the Chicago Public League; however, it is Lane’s first year being involved. 

This year the league has expanded to 50 CPS teams, and additional schools outside of CPS will be participating in the Western Suburban Conference. The Chicago Public League’s goal is to have it recognized as an IHSA sport

“I think it is essential that America’s game, which is what football is, is recognized for both girls and boys equally,” Welter said. “America’s game shouldn’t just be a game for half the population. Girls can, should, and do play football at a high level, so why not give the recognition it deserves.”

Juliana Zavala, the Senior Manager of Elementary Sports in the Chicago Public League, ran the event and emphasized the importance of it to build up the girls flag football program. 

“You can see the excitement here today and you can see the girls having an opportunity to play a sport of their own,” Zavala said “It’s an honor to be in this position, and to have a girls flag football team in the Chicago Public League. And more than anything thank you to the Chicago Bears for just doing an amazing job of helping us build up this program.”

Eliza McHale, a senior at Lane, is one of the team captains for girls flag football and is equally thrilled to be a part of the new team. 

“I am really excited. These events are so cool, and I love our team and I like having this leadership and being able to help our team and take these steps,” McHale said. 

Lane commanding the field as soon as the game started also instilled confidence in their players throughout the rest of the game, according to McHale. 

“I think people realized and our coach realized ‘we are actually good at this,’ and we all believed in ourselves. And once we saw the score and racking up points we thought ‘we got this,’ and believed we could keep winning as a team,” Mchale said. 

Caroline Schwartz, a computer science teacher at Lane, is the girls flag football team head coach, and she was impressed with the action she witnessed on the field. 

“I think that just the execution on offense was one of the things that we spent a lot of time on and needed to happen and worked a lot on running correct routes. It is super important that we saw that here and that’s what made our running plays work,” Schwartz said “But man our defense the second half coming out with all those interceptions just stepped up, and that’s what changed the game.

Lane has continued their dominance, racking up two more wins over Schurz and Senn since their week one victory. But even with their success, Schwartz sees room to improve as the team looks for a city title in their first year.

“I think we just are going to keep working on getting more people to play more positions, really diversifying and that is how we can come out each game,” Schwartz said.

The opening game ended with Marissa Ulie being awarded player of the game, and a closing conversation from Welter. 

“Watching these girls take the field, run plays, and execute the way that they did is so beautiful,” Welter said. “It takes every negative stereotype of girls can’t play, throw, catch, run, and throws it right out the window with a touchdown, celebration and hopefully a beautiful endzone dance as we celebrate the successes of girls in football.”